A judge in Oregon this week said shooting pictures up the skirt of a teenage girl is, surprisingly, legal in Oregon.
The ruling on Thursday ended a case that began when Patrick Buono, 61, "upskirted" a 13-year-old girl at a Target on Jan. 3, 2014. Buono allegedly followed the girl into the store, then, according to Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney, "surreptitiously creeped up behind her and stuck a camera up her skirt."
Maloney told BuzzFeed News on Friday that the girl's mother reported the incident, which was corroborated by witnesses. Investigators later figured out who Buono was by talking to store employees and checking security footage.
Police later searched Buono's home and seized several digital devices, but apparently didn't find the iPhone they believe he used, Maloney said.
After Buono eventually admitted to shooting the picture, prosecutors charged him with two counts each of invasion of privacy and attempted second-degree encouraging child sex abuse.
Buono's lawyer, Mark Lawrence, told BuzzFeed News that his client admitted to shooting the pictures, but "by admitting it, he's not saying it's moral or right."
"He's very empathetic and feels bad," Lawrence said of Buono.
Maloney said prosecutors thought Buono was invading the girl's privacy and that he was attempting to create child pornography.
But even though Buono admitted that he shot the pictures up the girl's skirt, the judge said he didn't actually break any laws.
Judge Eric Butterfield called Buono's behavior "appalling" and "lewd," The Oregonian reported. But ultimately, the judge acquitted Buono.
"From a legal point of view, which unfortunately today is my job to enforce, he didn't do anything wrong," Butterfield was reported as saying.
Maloney called it "a technical, legal ruling" that even seemed to disappoint the judge. Among other things, the judge noted that the girl was wearing underwear, and thus not technically nude, Maloney said.
Buono's lawyer compared the case to the classic Marilyn Monroe pictures with her skirt blowing in an updraft.
According to Lawrence, the case boils down to the First Amendment.
"The First Amendment protects essentially all pictures that are taken in public," he told BuzzFeed News.
Lawrence argued during the case that, in public, no one can expect privacy. On Friday, he said that, according to the logic prosecutors were using against Buono, pictures like the famous images of Monroe would've been illegal.
"Imagine it was a felony to take that, or to posses that," Maloney said of the Monroe pictures.
But prosecutors strongly disagreed Friday. In Monroe's case, Maloney said, she was an adult woman who knew what she was doing. That wasn't true of the teenage girl who went to Target with her mom.
"The conduct in this case is very different," Maloney said, "from a celebrity who is seeking to bring attention to herself, versus a 13-year-old girl at the store."
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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